5 Rewards of Coaching or Teaching Someone Else to Swim

Photo Courtesy: Pawel Loj, Flickr

By Katie Lively, Swimming World College Intern

There are a small handful of swimmers who truly dream of a career in coaching. The majority of us cringe slightly when we find out we need to figure out a way to teach our sport to an outsider.

However, my own experience has shown me just how powerful the effects of teaching can be—both on your swimmers and on yourself. I’ve taught kids of just about every age at one time or another, through being an assistant pre-swim team coach, co-coaching voluntary practices for incoming high school freshmen, and teaching swim lessons. I was surprised after each to realize just how much I had taken away from it, and this is why I think every swimmer should try teaching the sport to someone else:

1. It makes you better, too.


Photo Courtesy: Peter Bick

I was once working with the pre-swim team on proper side breathing. A lot of kids threw their heads up and out rather than straight out. After struggling to correct this for a while, it suddenly hit me: It’s like the way our heads lie on a pillow. Not only has this explanation always worked to some degree since then, but it also gave me something to remind myself of when I catch myself bringing my head up in my own swimming. Just like a pillow.

2. It improves your communication with your coaches and teammates.

Photo Courtesy: IRSC Athletics

Photo Courtesy: IRSC Athletics

When I watch video of myself or help teammates with their technique, I can explain my thoughts so much more succinctly now than I could before I had ever coached, because I’ve learned through trial and plenty of error how to deliver advice with clarity. “You’re doing a little bicycle kick” makes so much more sense than “you’re kind of bending your knees and bringing them out of the water, but not in quite the way Coach told us to.”

3. It gives you an appreciation for how far you’ve come.


Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

We all have frustrating dry spells in which we just can’t seem to drop time no matter what we do. During those times (or any other time) it is incredibly helpful to reflect on why we’re here. Swim lessons in particular are motivating from that standpoint—as I spent two weeks carefully watching kids who could barely keep themselves afloat, I realized just how much I had grown in the 15 years since I failed my first swim lesson after refusing to leave my mom. Our day-to-day challenges in the sport feel so much smaller when put in perspective of how far we’ve come.

4. It also gives you an appreciation for how hard your coaches work.

Coach Ray Looze cheers on his swimmer.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Ever wonder why your coaches constantly seem stressed about something? After explaining the same thing to a child five times and getting nowhere, you’ll stop wondering. Coaches are passionate about what they do, but the reality is that teaching even the most attentive swimmers requires constant strength in communication and patience. Gaining some firsthand experience with what that entails will almost certainly lead to mutual appreciation between you and your coaches.

5. It’s just flat-out rewarding.

Daraja kids learn to swim

Photo Courtesy: Carlee McDonald

Seeing the joy in a child’s eyes when they finally master a concept and knowing you helped them get there is unlike anything you’ll ever experience as a swimmer. Reliving the experience of your first successful dive through the eyes of an adult is even better than it was when you did it yourself. As a bonus, some of the sweetest and most sincere compliments come from children. I will never forget the day a child I was coaching asked me, “So do you want to be a coach when you’re older or something? Because you’re really good at it.”

Teaching anything, particularly a sport that puts a great emphasis on technique, can be intimidating. I didn’t know how I felt about it when I first decided to try it five years ago. Not everyone falls in love with it, but everyone can gain something from it and come away feeling more connected to their sport than ever before.

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Mark Stuttard
7 years ago

Tasha Stuttard

Christos Constantinides

Anais ?

Janet Wolff- Stewart
7 years ago

Sierra Stewart

Dan Hemenway
7 years ago

Gracie Hemenway Daniel Hemenway

Linda Batzer Nitchie
7 years ago

Carley Nitchie, you should read t his.

Beth Bayer
7 years ago

Hannah Bayer you should read it also.

Natalie Archer
7 years ago

Brittany Archer